Mobile Tools to Supplement Operating Procedures | AIChE

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Mobile Tools to Supplement Operating Procedures

Plant Operations

Use mobile devices and cloud technology to assist procedure execution and reduce human error.

Human error is a factor in many safety incidents that occur in the chemical process industries (CPI). Simple human errors such as moving the wrong valve or working on the wrong piece of equipment can have catastrophic outcomes. For example, one of the most widely studied process safety incidents related to human error was caused by an operator opening the wrong valve in a polyvinyl chloride production facility (1). Regardless of the amount of automation in a process, procedures still require significant human interaction with the process equipment during startup, shutdown, operations, and maintenance. Personnel must execute these procedures in close proximity to the process and its associated hazards.

Safe operating procedures and effective training programs help minimize human error, but they are by no means foolproof. Steps can be missed and performed incorrectly or at the wrong location. Further exacerbating this problem is the constant and increasing loss of institutional memory as experts leave organizations for various reasons (e.g., retirement, staff reductions). Companies must be able to document and retain expertise that might otherwise be lost.

The use of operating procedures is the first step in improving operator process safety and competency when performing manual activities. In addition, great improvements over simple paper documents are now possible with mobile devices. Mobile devices can expand on simple text descriptions to include pictures, videos, GPS tracking, equipment scanning, and additional information on tasks and equipment where required. Even beyond the improvement of procedure execution, the cloud-based nature of these tools provides a facility-wide dashboard where all of the procedures can be tracked from a single location, allowing managers to know the exact step, location, and status of every procedure. Historical records of the procedure execution also provide important insight that can improve the safety and efficiency of procedure execution in the future, as well as incident reporting and evaluation.

Tools that ensure plant operators and maintenance technicians perform the correct actions on the correct equipment are critical to reducing human error. This article describes the benefits of using mobile devices and cloud technology to assist procedure execution...

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